The Philippines is the last leg of President Barack Obama’s 4-nation, 8-day Asian Tour for 2014. Few days ago, the President has had successful bilateral talks with heads of Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. It”s the President’s first time to visit the said countries. So far, he is the 8th U.S. President to visit the Phlippines.
Apart from trade, development and certain common issues (diplomatic, economic and security) for the said countries, reports indicated that the agenda could zero in on strengthening and protection of U.S. interests and influence in the said Asia-Pacific regions, a strategic move, a symbolism of commitment and a show of America’s power, so to speak.
As to the issue of territorial disputes, President Obama earlier affirmed during his Japan visit that the U.S. would be obligated to defend the said country over the concerned disputed islands between Japan and China with the colatilla that both countries should first employ peaceful means to resolve the long-running dispute, taking into account justice and fairness in dealing with the concerned nations, be it large or small.
In contrast with his pronouncement in Japan when asked on the U.S. Government policy towards the Philippines in the event the territorial dispute turns into an armed conflict, President Obama did not provide a categorical “Yes” or “No”. He clarified that U.S. still maintains a consistent long standing policy as far as international dispute is concerned. He said, “Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected…” He further mentioned that America does not “go around sending ships and threatening folks”. However, he viewed that international arbitration on the maritime dispute is a friendly and peaceful means and is based on the rule of law and mutual respect.
President Obama in his speech during the State Dinner seemed to have shown support when he heartwarmingly said that America has so many “shared prides” with the Philippines and that it is proud to be Philippines’ ally and friend.
To allay the concerns of some local groups and countries like China, the U.S. President emphasized that the security military agreement, earlier signed by representatives of both the U.S. and Philippine Governments in time for his visit, is not meant to reclaim bases or open new ones. He said that the U.S. military shall rotate upon the Philippine Government’s invitation, to provide aid to improve its maritime security and to hasten response in the event of natural disasters. President Aquino, on his part, humbly admitted the inadequacy of its military facilities, that it is in anorexic state. He even indicated that its Air Force does not even have a “single military fighter jet”.
On personal and candid note, while I was not one of the invited guests at the State Dinner, I wish to make a toast to my twittermate, His Ecellency, President Obama, for a healthy and fruitful bilateral relations between the U.S. and my Motherland! I also wish the President will treasure the Order of Sikatuna (rank of a Rajah or a Datu) conferred on him by the Philippine Government. Further, Mr. President I hope that you will follow Japan and issue the “no visa policy” for the Philippines, being the country with the highest trust rating in the U.S. more than any other country! And lastly, we wish you Mr President a safe and happy trip and please extend our sympathies to the victims and families of the recent tornado in the U.S.